Surface Book at $1250: Now We’re Talking

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 20 Comments

Surface Book at $1250: Now We're Talking

The base model Surface Book is now on sale for $1250 at the Microsoft Store, a savings of $250. That’s a great price, and it changes the value equation somewhat.

To understand what I mean, let’s look back to my article Understanding the Expanded Surface Book Lineup, from late last month. At that time, I was trying to differentiate between the suddenly exploding number of Surface Book models, triggered by the appearance of several new Performance Base variants.

In that article, I concluded with the following:

So what’s the sweet spot here?

If I were spending my own money, I would buy the base model. But if Microsoft did offer a Surface Book i5/16 GB/128 GB for $1699, the same price as the Surface Book i5/8 GB/256 GB model, that would be my choice.

That said, $1499 to $1699 is a lot of money for a Core i5 laptop. A MacBook Pro with a Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage costs the same $1499 (though the version with the Touch Bar is $1799).

I’d be much more inclined to buy the 2016 HP Spectre x360: That PC with the same specs costs just $1049, a savings of $400. But you lose pen support, which may matter to some, and the Surface Book’s 3:2 display is superior. On the flipside, Surface Book has been unreliable.

Thankfully, we have choice. And if you are in the market for Surface Book, you suddenly have tons of choice.

With the base Surface Book dropping by $250 to a street price of just $1250—temporarily, by the way: this offer ends November 28, and “while supplies last”—the value equation has changed. And it may be a big enough change to warrant a rethinking on Surface Book. At least for this specific model. Which is:

Price: $1249 (Normally $1499)
Availability: October 2015
Processor: 6th generation (Skylake) Intel Core i5
Storage: 128 GB
Dedicated GPU: No

$1500 is indeed a lot of money for a Core i5 laptop. So is $1250. But when you compare that $1250 price tag to the $1050 asking price of a similarly-equipped HP Spectre x360 (2016 model), you’ll need to do some soul searching.

The Surface Book offers a bigger screen (and, commensurately, is heavier and bulkier), which I like, and that screen is a 3:2 aspect ratio, which I love.

Both devices offer excellent typing and trackpad experiences, but the Surface Book is better, and, with the trackpad, dramatically so.

The Surface Book supports and—crucially—includes an active pen, the Surface Pen. The 2016 model x360 doesn’t support such a thing, and if you need/want one, that could be a deciding factor. Too, Surface Pen costs $60 by itself, so that lowers the cost delta between these devices further, from $200 to $140.

The HP includes more modern ports—USB-C with Thunderbolt 2, two of them—plus a single USB 3.0 port. That may be desirable to some. Or off-putting.

The HP is a convertible, but the Surface Book is a detachable. I find that capability pointless, but some may like the clipboard (tablet) form factor.

Finally, and this cannot be overstated or ignored, Surface Book has been unreliable. In fact, it’s still something of a roulette wheel of reliability, and there’s no real way to ensure that the one you get will work correctly or just always be off, with intermittent power management issues such as “hot bag”. Many people have no issues at all. But many do. On the good news front, Microsoft support is usually pretty great, and if you have a local Microsoft Store, that may be enough to justify the risk.

Ultimately, the HP Spectre x360—which, yes, I will be reviewing this week—remains an unparalleled value. But if you’ve been itching to pull the trigger on a Surface Book, and agree that the base model is the sweet spot, then this sale price makes it even sweeter. And when you consider that the best PC portables all fall in the $1000 and up range, Surface Book is a real contender. Especially at this price.


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